General

Recipes for Essential Oils in Dementia

Patients with dementia face a number of challenging issues that complicate their care and compromise their quality of life. A number of essential oils have well-documented efficacy in the management and amelioration of some of these issues and can reduce the burden on caregivers as well as improve patients’ life experience.

Agitation and Combativeness: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of the most effective essential oils for reducing agitation and combativeness and in one study a patient who was so combative that he required sedation was found to improve dramatically when a cotton ball with a couple of drops of lavender oil was pinned to his shirt. Other studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of lavender for reducing aggressiveness and agitation in this population, either employed as single oil or as a component of a blend. Other essential oils employed in these studies have included mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and marjoram (Origanum majorana). In my own experience with patients, I have found the combination of lavender essential oil and frankincense (Boswellia carteri) to have calming and stabilizing affects.

For addressing agitation and combativeness, blends are generally more effective than single oils, with the exception of lavender which can sometimes be effective alone. Two to 4 drops of pure essential oil can be diffused into the patient’s room by a fan diffuser but I find that aromatherapy jewelry – or, alternatively, a cotton ball with a drop or two of essential oil pinned to the shirt- is generally more effective for addressing agitation. Hand massage using 2 or 3 drops of essential oil diluted in two teaspoons of vegetable oil is also a good alternative unless the patient is agitated by touch, as some patients with dementia are. Note: always exercise caution with patients who become agitated or aggressive – do not assume that an essential oil intervention will eliminate the behavior.

A suggested formula for addressing agitation and/or aggressiveness in patients with dementia:

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) 30%
  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana) 20%
  • Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulate) 10%
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 15%
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) 25%

This blend is available from Artisan Aromatics as BE CALM. Online Shop

References/Bibliography:

1. Perlman, A. Eisenberg, D.M. & Panush, R.S. Talking with patients about alternative and complementary medicine. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, Vol. 25, Issue 1, 1 November, 1999, 815-822.
2. Horrigan, B.J. New NHIS survey reveals that 38% of American adults use CAM. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing Vol5, Issue 2, March 2009, pp 71-73
3. Lewith, G.T., et.al. Complementary cancer care in South Hampton: a survey of staff and patients. Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, Vol. 10, Issue 2, June 2002, pp 100-106.
4. Thomas, D. Aromatherapy: mythical, magical or medicinal? Holistic Nursing Practice, Vol. 17, Issue 1, Oct. 2002, pp 8-16.
5. Ernst, E. & White A. The BBC survey of complementary medicine use in the UK. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Vol. 8, Issue1, March 2002, pp 32-36.
6. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fast Facts for Medical Practice (2002) by Herring, M.A. & Roberts, M.M.
7. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Second Edition (1999) by Price, S. and Price, L.

About Joie Power, Ph.D.

Dr. Power is a retired neuropsychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. She was an Assistant Professor of Surgery/Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Georgia before entering private practice and has over 20 years of clinical experience in inpatient and outpatient settings. She is both a student and practitioner of alternative healing methods, including herbal studies, aromatherapy, and Chinese Medicine. Her training in the olfactory and limbic systems of the brain gives her a unique qualification for understanding the actions of essential oils and she is an internationally known writer and teacher in the field of aromatherapy. Her approach to aromatherapy weaves together her solid scientific training and strong clinical skills with a holistic philosophy that honors body, mind and spirit.